A lot of emotion at the last concert of the Domaine Forget International Festival in Saint-Irénée, which also marked the end of the mandate of Marie-Nicole Lemieux, who for 10 years was the Charlevoix institution’s ambassador.
Posted on August 22, 2021
Les Violons du Roy, a long-time collaborator of the Domaine, had been entrusted with the mission of sharing the stage with the contralto. Jean-Marie Zeitouni directed the phalanx, enriched by the contribution of supernumeraries and participants in an orchestra course held during the week.
Marie-Nicole Lemieux has been heard in numerous song cycles in Quebec. From memory, however, it was the first time we heard it on this side of the Atlantic in the Sea Pictures d’Elgar, a collection she recently recorded in France for Erato.
For the occasion, the singer also performed four lieder by Schubert on quite interesting arrangements for voice and orchestra (one thinks of the clever circulation of motifs in Trout, but also to surges of Daisy on the spinning wheel) signed Max Reger, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, Hugo Bégin and Robert Schollum.
The orchestra offered as substantial complements the Serenade for strings of Elgar and the Symphony nThe 8 in B minor, known as “Unfinished”, by Schubert.
It’s here Serenade who opened the concert. This is one of the “standards” of any string orchestra, and everything was well-honed. Even more than rehearsed: Zeitouni offered a very felt interpretation, with elegantly curved phrases and a pleasantly silky sound. However, it seemed to us that the first violins could have been more present. This may be an effect of the full backstage curtain closing.
Schubert’s lieder followed. From her first address to the public, Marie-Nicole Lemieux admitted that she was “overwhelmed” by emotion at the idea of offering this “love program” to an audience that had been loyal to her for many years.
She sang everything by heart, except for the song An Sylvia. We felt she was particularly invested in You are the rest – ah, these silences full of emotion! – and Trout, where her storytelling skills were put to good use.
To follow with the “Unfinished” was very appropriate, the haunting pulse of the “spinning wheel” seeming to continue to well up in the orchestra. Jean-Marie Zeitouni almost transports us to The ghost ship of Wagner, raising zephyrs and torrents in a tempo more “moderato” than “allegro” (Schubert indicates “allegro moderato”). The major theme of the cello could have stood out more, but overall it is a perfectly satisfying performance. The second movement, an “Andante con moto”, sang with bewildering ease.
We obviously expected the Sea Pictures, and its interpreter, who described the work as “delicate and grandiose”, did not disappoint us. She navigates brilliantly between the benevolent caresses of Sea Slumber Song, the Dionysian bewitchment of Sabbath Morning at Sea and the saline scents of Where Corals Lie. Jean-Marie Zeitouni deploys an orchestral accompaniment in Technicolor for her. And what about the last melody, the poignant The Swimmer, where the commitment of the contralto, up to a final overwhelming acute, takes us to the guts?
To thank the artist for his 10 years at the Domaine, the orchestra offered him the hi love d’Elgar, before a heartfelt tribute from the artistic team. And finally, the singer offered a Trout “pimped” (we use his words!).